When a River Dies of Thirst (Dallas in August)

The run of Summer is a slow, soggy shuffle down Elm Street.
The name’s a cruel wisecrack, as there’s none planted here.
Just like there are no slopes on Hillcrest.
But there is a dog sauntering to a sparse belt of shade.
Both the hound and the shade line are thin
like this town’s single river, the Trinity.

The run of Summer is a river exhausted from rushing.
From west and north, two forks must meet
so, a third somehow weakened cord can slink
through stubborn grassland at a late-Summer pace.
This is where a river grows quiet and when,
in August, it might die of thirst.

Steaming beneath viaducts with plumes of mosquitos,
you’d think it a miracle it reaches the bay at all,
that it doesn’t just die here as swamp.

I know there are places where it is loose and wild -
in northern headwaters, where a river doesn’t long to just be.
In deltas and spillways, it hurries again to meet its kin.
Before the Gulf, a river’s promised land, there are
even-shaded channels growing secret cypress forests
hatching long-legged birds that peck at the crawfish.
But, in this last run of Summer, in uncanopied plains,
a Dallas dog and a trickle of rivers can only take so much-
the burn on the paw paddles, the haze making sunlight-
before curling under awnings or dissolving into mud sloughs.

Published: Lone Star Poets, 2022-2023, Laurence Musgrove, Editor